DEI Practice Team Launches

September 18, 2023

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and SFFA v. University of North Carolina, et al. — as well as changes in state laws and heightened plaintiff group activity — have sparked increased legal, shareholder and other scrutiny of corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. McGuireWoods has established a DEI practice team to help clients identify, navigate and mitigate potential legal issues arising from these and other developments.

The multidisciplinary team comprises lawyers from the firm’s labor and employmenteducationaffirmative actiongovernment contractingappeals and issuescorporate governancecommercial litigationinsurance recovery, and government investigations and white collar litigation groups. The firm’s lawyers help clients develop strategies to minimize risk and meet legal and regulatory requirements while continuing to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace. When programs or processes that impact an organization’s DEI objectives are challenged, McGuireWoods will defend any private litigation or government enforcement action initiated.

The team includes a former in-house counsel at a major U.S. corporation, a former U.S. Department of Education official and university in-house counsel, a former deputy director at OFCCP, former U.S. Supreme Court clerks, and accomplished lawyers experienced in litigation, investigations and strategic counseling.

The group advises clients on:

  • Defenses to traditional employment law claims concerning DEI programs under Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. 1981.
  • Defenses to and advice regarding shareholder proposals / proxy votes, derivative claims, and other business and securities matters related to DEI programs.
  • Strategies for federal government contractors to comply with Executive Order 11246, VEVRAA and the Rehabilitation Act, create acceptable affirmative action plans, and defend against enforcement actions by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs.
  • Strategies for state attorney general and congressional investigations related to corporate DEI programs.
  • Maximizing insurance recoveries for investigations and lawsuits challenging corporate hiring practices, affirmative action and other DEI initiatives.
  • Potential mitigation measures such as attorney-client privileged DEI audits to assess risk and insurance coverage review.

“Diversity and inclusion are core values at McGuireWoods and a priority for many clients,” said McGuireWoods Chairman Jonathan Harmon. “We have assembled a talented and experienced team to help clients lawfully create and sustain inclusive work environments where every voice is heard and respected.”